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Accidents and the lessons learned


Ice and controversy: Titanic 1912

The Titanic was equipped with watertight bulkheads [definition], but she still sank after hitting an iceberg on 14th April 1912. Alerted by a lookout to the danger ahead, the officer on watch had ordered the ship to turn, but this meant that, as the Titanic struck the iceberg a glancing blow as it turned away. Indeed, it has been suggested that the Titanic actually ran aground on the submerged ice which surrounded the `berg. The gash she suffered pierced too many of her watertight compartments for her to have enough buoyancy to remain afloat. It has also been suggested that her captain`s decisions to start the engines again and to try to reach Halifax (Canada), put too great a strain on the damaged hull.

Postcard of `Titanic`

Magnifying glassPostcard of `Titanic`

The watertight compartments delayed the sinking, as it was almost three hours before the Titanic slid below the calm waters of the North Atlantic. But there was no urgent action to get the passengers to the boats, possibly because her officers did not appreciate the seriousness of the situation. On the other hand, was it because they knew there were spaces in the lifeboats for only one third of those on board? Perhaps they felt the best hope of rescue was that another ship would answer the distress calls.

`Titanic` leaving Southampton

Magnifying glass`Titanic` leaving Southampton

The loss of the Titanic did have far reaching effects on safety at sea. Following an international conference in London, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was adopted by a number of countries in 1914. It set standards for safe navigation, construction of ships, fitting of radio, life-saving equipment, and protection from fire. There have since been four further SOLAS conventions, which have extended the rules. Most countries with ships have now signed the SOLAS conventions.

Learn more about Titanichere.

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